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Sunday, August 14, 2022

GTA polls pass off peacefully, 59% turnout recorded

The voting, held after 10 years, began at 7am with 9.98% voters casting their franchise till 9 am, it is learnt. Till 11 am, a 24.4% turnout was reported, officials said.

Written by Sweety Kumari | Darjeeling |
Updated: June 27, 2022 3:42:36 am
Voters at St Joseph College Darjeeling to cast their vote for GTA election on Sunday. (Express Photo by Partha Paul)

The elections to the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) in north Bengal’s Darjeeling Hills were held peacefully with 59.05% voter turnout on Sunday, officials said.

“The polls were overall peaceful, except for a few minor incidents,” Darjeeling District Magistrate S Ponnambalam said.

The final voting figures may slightly vary as reports were yet to be received from some polling stations, officials said.

Polling for the GTA, the semi-autonomous council that governs the Darjeeling Hills, began on a slow note in the morning on Sunday, said election officials. The voting, held after 10 years, began at 7am with 9.98% voters casting their franchise till 9 am, it is learnt. Till 11 am, a 24.4% turnout was reported, officials said.

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“The voter turnout was lower than the previous elections. In fact, during the initial hours we could hardly spot queues at the polling stations,” said an official.

Voting is underway for 45 seats spread across three sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kurseong, and Kalimpong at 922 polling stations. (Express Photo by Partha Paul)

Voting was held at 922 polling stations for 45 seats spread across three sub-divisions of Darjeeling, Kurseong, and Kalimpong. Out of the 922 polling stations, five were marked as ‘critical’ while 101 were identified as ‘vulnerable’.

Of the 277 candidates in the fray from 45 seats, 169 are Independents while 108 are from various political parties.

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Kalpana Thapa, a young voter, said, “Proper supply of water and unemployment are the main issues here. We are voting for more job opportunities.”

“We are peace lovers. We vote with a smile on our face and wish whoever forms the GTA board resolves basic issues of the people,” said Manju Gurung who cast her vote at the 178 Municipal Girls High School in Darjeeling

The BJP and its allies Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF) and the Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists (CPRM) have boycotted the GTA polls. Bimal Gurung’s Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM), which was in power in the GTA for several years, is also not taking part in the polls.

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Voter’s at municipal school Darjeeling to cast their vote for GTA election on Sunday. (Express Photo by Partha Paul)

The battle is mainly between Ajoy Edwards’ newly-formed Hamro Party and Anit Thapa-led Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM).

The new entrant Hamro Party, which won 18 out of 32 seats in the recent civic body polls, is contesting from all 45 seats, the Bharatiya Gorkha Prajatantrik Morcha (BGPM) is fighting from 36, the CPIM from 12, the state’s ruling party Trinamool Congress (TMC) from 10 and the Congress on 5.

The BGPM has extended support to Independents on other seats.

BGPM’s Thapa said the state government should consider the problems and issues of the people of hills. “We cannot fight the government of the state which we are a part of,” he said at Kurseong.

The first uncontested GTA election was held in 2012 when Bimal Gurung’s GTA had formed the board. The political situation in the Hills got heated up after the term of that board expired in 2017. For five years, the GTA has been running only through the appointment of administrators.

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In Siliguri, elections were held in nine segments of the Mahakuma Parishad (sub-divisional council), 22 panchayats, and four panchayat samitis. Till 5pm, Siliguri Mahakuma parishad recorded 79.5% turnout.

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First published on: 26-06-2022 at 01:43:32 pm

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